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Washington fires 25 as Buffs snap streak
Manteca’s Brianna Wallace is sandwiched by Central Valley’s Phylicia Martinez, left, and Amanda Lopez while going up for a rebound. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
Sharon Washington was feeling ill, but not because of a virus.

“I’m just sick of it, sick of losing — so sick of it,” the sophomore point guard said after scoring a game-high 25 points in Manteca’s 57-29 Valley Oak League win against Central Valley Tuesday at Winter Gym.

The cure-all for struggling teams in any sport is a victory, and head coach Andrea Hiatt hopes her Buffaloes (2-7, 9-13 overall) catch a bug of a different kind after losing seven straight. Manteca’s last win came against the same Hawks (1-8, 5-17) of Ceres on Jan. 6, and the Buffaloes had to come from behind to win, 49-43.

With 3:38 left in the contest, Hiatt got do something she hadn’t done since the preseason: Give her starters the rest of the night off with plenty time to spare.

“It’s a long time coming,” Hiatt said. “The girls have been working hard for that victory. They remembered how to win, hopefully that’s contagious and it takes us into the next game. We’ll see how long we can ride this.”

On Tuesday it was Washington at the wheel, forcing a full-speed-ahead pace or setting the tempo on cruise at will. Washington used her ability to penetrate the Central Valley defense to find her groove early, scoring 10 points in the first quarter.

Her range extended as her confidence grew. In the second quarter she hit her first of two 3-pointers from the right corner and was fouled in the process. She completed the rare four-point play with a free throw to stretch Manteca’s early lead to 27-13 with 3:05 to go in the half.

“Sharon is playing like a girl who’s determined,” Hiatt said. “She’s got that switch that she can turn on. The thing about her performance tonight is that she had 25, but it was a quiet 25.

“She was distributing the ball; it wasn’t like it was the Sharon Washington show. She played unselfishly tonight, and when she had an open shot she made it.”

As well as Washington played, it was the best all-around effort put forth by the Buffaloes in the regular season. Junior forward Cynthia Perez was an energizer on both ends, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds and five steals. Davina Bennett contributed six points and eight boards.

“We all played great,” Washington said. “It was a big team effort, our defense was amazing.”

Central Valley standout Julie Calderon was held to just nine points to pace the Hawks.

The win itself could do wonders for Manteca’s confidence heading down the stretch, and how it won shows the rest of the league that the Buffaloes are not to be taken lightly.

Manteca is the 20th ranked team according the first release of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff power ratings. The top 16 teams qualify.

“It’s hard to be in a situation like that,” Hiatt said. “We were in a big slump and they responded. It’s the second half (of league); we’re hoping we can scratch our way into a playoff spot.

“It’s a long shot but it can happen. We have to play for something.”